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Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise Bath Oil — Dreaming of Madagascar

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When I was a little girl, my parents would take my older brother and I for a “paseo” (the Spanish word for “journey,” though it often refers to shorter day trips) in Old San Juan on lazy Sunday afternoons. We’d drive into the city, slowly making our way through the narrow, cobblestone streets, marveling at the view of the ocean next to all the houses in the city’s La Perla section, awestruck by the El Morro fort and the kids flying their kites in the grassy area leading to the historic landmark. The drive would take several hours, partly because of the insane traffic (we always seemed to be bumper-to-bumper with the other cars). And the best part was always when we made our way to the plaza right next to the harbor where all the cruise boats were docked, and we were treated to piragüas, shaved ice treats shaped like inverted cones (and served atop cone-shaped paper cups) and sweetened with flavored syrup. We’d be bouncing up and down eagerly as we watched the piragüa man behind his wooden cart, shaving the ice off a solid block as if he were sanding a wooden surface, working rapidly and with precision to pack all the ice shavings into one of the cone-shaped cups and then flipping the cup over, pouring it into another cup, and pouring the syrup over it all. Like most kids, my brother and I always ordered cherry piragüas, whereas my mom would opt for an anise flavor. The licorice-like flavor and scent of anise, then, always reminds me of my mom and these family trips through Old San Juan. I remember how my mom would recount the history of different fortresses, galleries and churches, how she would smile as we cruised by the ocean, and how she’d always get a bit of a headache from eating her anise piragüa a bit too quickly. The scent of anise, then, reminds me of my Puerto Rican heritage, of the joie de vivre my mom exuded in these childhood moments, of the ladylike sophistication with which my mom carried herself.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I heard Jo Malone would be launching a Body Creme, Bath Oil and Home Candle to complement its Vanilla & Anise Cologne (which was launched last fall). Inspired by the rare vanilla orchid blossoms found in the Madagascar region, the Vanilla & Anise scent features: top notes of Sicilian bergamot, Tunisian neroli, wild fennel flower, and star anise; middle notes of oleander, tuberose, frangipani, and purple vanilla orchid; and base notes of creamy musk, Madagascar clove, white amber, Haitian vetiver, vanilla bourbon, and tonka bean.

I had the pleasure of sampling the Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise Cologne, and the scent is simply exquisite. It’s often to interpret an existing scent and manifest it in a bath oil form since you want to stay true to the original fragrance while also taking into account how to maximize the sensuous aspect of the bathing experience. Oftentimes, I find that bath oils deliver an overwhelming amount of fragrance in one fell swoop (to the point where the bather’s allergies can start to fare up), and yet the scent tends to fade away just as quickly. But this exotic and sultry scent wafts in the air as you lower your body into your warm bath, and it continues to titillate your sense throughout the bathing experience. I found that the tonka and vanilla notes linger for the longest period of time, as well as the spicier frangipani note which adds a nice Mediterranean vibe. Aside from its aromatic properties, the Vanilla & Anise softens the skin so that, when you emerge from your bath, your limbs will feel silky smooth.

Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise Bath Oil, $60 for 250ml bottle. Available at Jo Malone shops, Bergdorf Goodman, select Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue stores and at JoMalone.com

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